Stonekeep. Interplay, 1995.
What began as a simple tile-based dungeon crawler was swept up by ambition and pigheaded-ness, making what could have been a true classic into a long overdue, technologically disappointing odd duck that few remember. Sure, it had its strengths – atmospheric music, a very simplified user interface that allowed focus on exploration and combat, interesting graphics (digitized actors in monster suits!) – but a tile-based faux-3D game, in first person perspective, at a time when other games were offering free 3D movement and combat? Too little, too late, Stonekeep.
But forget all that. What does Stonekeep mean to me? Well, as one of the first games I played on CD-ROM after years of no more than 16 colors of action on a 386 PC, it kinda blew me away. It was my older brother’s game, and I watched him slog through castle corridors, sewers, caves, and other, suspiciously similar-looking caves, with great interest. Trying to play the game myself, I often got too nervous, worrying that some giant ant would be biting my hero’s butt and I’d die during the ten seconds it took my character to turn around. Eventually my brother got stuck, so that Christmas I bought him a strategy guide so I could watch him beat the game. With tips picked up from the guide I dared to brave the game myself as well, and ended up beating it several times. The game’s story stuck with me most – this was before I’d picked up Tolkien or anything similar, and my first brush with ‘serious’ fantasy. Make no mistake – I love this game like it’s a retarded cousin who must be kept away from rabbits, and I am LPing it out of that love.
These types of games aren't known for their brisk pace, and Stonekeep kind of encourages slow and cautious progression. That's why I'll play and plan out each level in advance, to follow the most efficient route that still shows off all the content. Similarly, melee combat can get tedious, which is why I frequently abuse some of the less than stellar programming to my advantage. All the while I’ll be talking about the game, and wherever time allows it, elaborate on its story and its troubled production.
Original Archived Let's Play available at the Let's Play Archive